Farewell to Demons and Spirits

Paul U. Unschuld

in What Is Medicine?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257658
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944701 | DOI:
Farewell to Demons and Spirits

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This chapter focuses on the disappearance of demons and microorganisms from teachings on the causation of illnesses and the understanding of the pharmaceutical tradition and examines the question of the body's powers of self-healing. It is relatively easy to understand that the scientists of the time ignored demons but not all scientists and observers were prepared to renounce the knowledge of demons. It was only those observers responsible for the new medicine who no longer saw what their predecessors had seen for many centuries. The “upper class of ancient China,” literate and formally educated in history, philosophy, and natural history, is divided into two groups. One group comprising those who no longer perceived part of what was once reality and the other group comprising those who continued to acknowledge that part of reality and included it in their healing. Demons and spirits were shown amulets or confronted with spoken exorcisms describing one's alliance with the superpowers of the numinous world, such as the sun, moon, Big Dipper, or especially fierce demons whose alliance one sought against the weaker spirits.

Keywords: demons; microorganisms; pharmaceutical tradition; self-healing; new medicine; natural history

Chapter.  1419 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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